Shortly after joining the Washington Times, I picked up a PlayStation 3. The reason was simple: I needed a Blu-ray player, and the PS3 is, simply put, the best value for the money on the market place. It plays Blu-rays, upconverts standard def DVDs to near 1080 quality, and plays video games to boot. I haven’t hooked it up to the Internet yet, but I imagine that once I do the system will only get better.
Over the last few months, I’ve grown to love my PS3. The image it puts it is, frankly, stunning. Combining it with a HDTV is the closest thing you’re going to find to filim for the home theater short of actually building a projector into the wall behind your couch. Which is why I’m so depressed that Sony seems bound and determined to do everything in its power to hinder the market penetration of the system in particular and Blu-ray in general.
One brief example: look at the holiday landscape. We’re dealing with the worst economy since the Carter years. Deflation looms. Businesses desperately need a big holiday push to boost the bottom line. The Nintendo Wii remains the most popular system in the land, and, at $250, isn’t neessarily a budget buster. XBox 360 is making a serious push by dropping the price of its core system to $199. And how did Sony respond?
By releasing a new version of the PS3 …. that’s $100 more expensive. Yes it comes with a game, and yes it has more hard drive space, to which I respond: Who cares? Was the marketplace clamoring for more power from the PS3? Is that why its market penetration is so low? What in God’s name are the Sony execs thinking?
Now, consider the following facts: Samsung has just released a Blu-ray player that will stream Netflix movies (in other words, you can pick a select number of movies from the Netflix library and watch them instantly on your TV). The XBox 360 just added the same capability. How does Sony respond? Not by allowing PS3 owners to stream Netflix movies—that would make too much sense. Instead, they said that Netflix couldn’t stream any title from Sony’s library to the XBox. That’ll show ‘em!
Sony has also done a terrible job of marketing Blu-ray players as a whole. I’ve had conversations now with two people who didn’t think Blu-ray players would play standard def DVDs and didn’t know what upconverting was. I understand, in theory, why Blu-ray manufacturers and the studios want to keep it on the hush hush that Blu-ray players make standard def DVDs look better; there’s an awful lot of money to be made in suckering people into buying that back catalog of titles all over again. But it’s a losing strategy in the long run, especially if it keeps people away from the technology altogether.
And that’s what’s happening. Market penetration remains low, and every month people don’t buy a Blu-ray player is a month they get closer to downloadable HD movies and the death of the format as a whole. Sony would be wise to get step it up and do a better job at getting Blu-ray players into people’s homes.